Mary Hopewell Theatre, Dunedin

26/09/2006 - 30/09/2006

Production Details

By Euripides
Translated & directed by Harry Love

University of Otago Department of Classics

Euripides’ timeless Greek tragedy

Vivienne Aitken - Hecuba
John Watson - Odysseus
Geoff Lambourne - Talthybius
Harry Love - Agamemnon

Theatre ,

Classical tragedy accessible to modern audience

Review by Barbara Frame 05th Oct 2006

University of Otago Department of Classics productions have become a Dunedin institution. This year’s is Euripides’ Hecuba.

Hecuba, widow of King Priam of Troy, already beset by multiple disasters and indignities, learns in a single day of the violent deaths of two of her children.

When an opportunity for partial revenge appears she seizes it with the courage and determination of the truly desperate. But, as in real life, revenge does not lead to some just resolution, but on to a future of seemingly endless horror.

Vivienne Aitken’s Hecuba is splendid: assured and regal while tormented to the limits of human endurance. Her decision to blind Polymestor, who has murdered her son Polydorus, and to have his son killed, is the wrong one, but Aitken ensures that she retains the audience’s sympathy throughout.

Her performance is complemented by those of experienced actors John Watson as Odysseus, Geoff Lambourne as Talthybius, and director and translator Harry Love as Agamemnon.

While the play’s women wear vaguely "classical" costumes, the men are clad in modern military outfits, emphasising the point that their behaviour and actions are those of soldiers rather than of free individuals. This does not mean that they are brutal; mostly, their attitudes are civilised, even humane, but it is stern, pragmatic military logic that prevails.

For those who wish to draw them, there are obvious parallels between the self-perpetuating conflicts of the classical period and those of the present day.

Love’s uncluttered, idiomatic translation makes Hecuba very accessible to a modern audience. Disappointingly, only 17 people, all of them appreciative, turned up at the Mary Hopewell Theatre at the Dunedin College of Education for last night’s opening performance.

Hecuba is profoundly depressing, but you’ll be glad you went. 


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